Chris Murphy
Sen. Chris murphy

Two US senators claimed they were refused entry to areas of a federal prison in Connecticut while attempting to investigate conditions in response to correctional employees’ complaints about a staffing shortfall and a lack of coronavirus safeguards.

The refusal was based on concerns about COVID-19’s propagation, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Connecticut Democrats Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal paid a visit to the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution with labor leaders and two state legislators. They were denied admission to the main women’s facility, but were allowed to view a men’s unit after a “fight” to get access, according to Murphy.

“There was clearly a decision made to try to stop both of us from seeing some of the conditions at this prison,” Murphy said during a news conference after the visit.

“This facility, even during COVID, should be open for inspection by policymakers,” he said. “It’s important to see it in good times, but it’s as important to see it in difficult times.” And it’s a concern if the Bureau of Institutions has determined that politicians in the United States won’t be allowed to see what’s actually going on inside these prisons during a crisis.”

Blumenthal said that prison authorities rejected an itinerary offered to the senators ahead of the visit at the last minute on Wednesday morning.

“The officials here said we’d love to have you come back when COVID is over,” Blumenthal said. “We came here to see conditions when COVID is the problem. That was the whole point.”Bop Workers

The Bureau of Prisons said in a statement that Murphy and Blumenthal were given a tour of the prison “based on current COVID-19 safety protocols.”

“For health and safety reasons, portions of the tour were adjusted by the Warden to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 following an increase in COVID-19 cases,” the statement said.

Other queries concerning correctional officials’ concerns about staffing and coronavirus precautions were not quickly answered by the agency. Responses are being prepared, according to a representative for the agency.

According to Shaun Boylan, a Danbury prison guard and executive vice president of the local prison staff union, Local 1661 of the American Federation of Government Employees, the senators were kept away from any areas where convicts were. Until Wednesday morning, he added, jail authorities had no concerns to the original trip program.

According to Boylan, the tour was adjusted to include primarily unoccupied rooms, such as a men’s dining room and security areas immediately outside the housing units.

According to the Bureau of Prisons, the Danbury prison complex contains 1,078 convicts. According to Murphy and the local correctional officers’ union, the coronavirus has put around 40% of the convicts in isolation or quarantine.

In federal prisons around the country, the virus has begun spreading again. According to the Bureau of Prisons, more than 145,000 convicts are housed in institutions and community-based facilities.

According to bureau data, 8,074 convicts are now sick with the coronavirus, and more than 1,640 of the 36,000 staff members are infected.

Bop WorkerAmong the many concerns raised by departing Bureau Director Michael Carvajal, whose retirement was announced earlier this month, were staffing shortages and viral outbreaks in jails around the country.

Due to a staffing shortfall in Danbury, many correctional officers are working double shifts, according to Boylan. Officers are fatigued, morale is poor, and the situation is perilous, according to him.

Officers are working in many units as a consequence of staffing issues, which may be aiding in the transmission of the illness, according to Boylan. He also complained that receiving virus testing results for personnel takes too long – two days.

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Boylan said, “We don’t have the people to halt the spread of coronavirus here because they’re employing the decreased amounts of workers, and they’re moving all over the place.”

According to Boylan, Danbury now has just over 80 correctional officers, down from 115 two years ago and 72 officers short of the Bureau of Prisons’ own staffing criteria. The Bureau’s ideal is one officer every jail unit, but the Danbury staff to unit ratio is one to three, he added. According to him, the infection has put thirteen cops out of work.

The agency claims that Danbury is more than 90% staffed, but the union disputes this claim.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will review staffing at Danbury and other federal prisons, according to Blumenthal.

Murphy, Blumenthal, and Connecticut Democrat Jahana Hayes asked for a federal inquiry of the Danbury prison complex earlier this month after receiving accusations of authorities failing to follow coronavirus guidelines.

Officials from the Bureau of Prisons have previously said that they follow the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 standards.